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Opinions of Sunday, 24 April 2016

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

George Sydney Abugri: When is the next Ghana Airways flight out of Accra?

By George Sydney Abugri

I fancy a rant about Ghana Airways. Ghana Airways? Does Ghana have a national airline? Ahh, it is because of this very question, that we need to hold this conversation: Once upon a time, Ghana Airways was doing great business and all was kama {a Twi word meaning splendid or nice and dandy, see?}

Then as has always been the case with many state enterprises enjoying good times, corruption, greed and a fair amount of managerial inefficiency bordering on the worst in corporate recklessness, set in:
Management and staff of the national carrier began over-exploiting staff privi¬leges, sometimes loading up planes from nose to tail with friends, husbands, wives, concubines and other relations. They loaded up planes with cargo free of charge or at unbelievably ridicu1ous rates, leaving no room for the luggage of passengers, who were then often left stranded at airports.
Then there were the chronic cases of over-book¬ings, cancelled or delayed flights. Too often, passengers whose bookings had been confirmed lost their seats to travellers who appeared out of nowhere at the last minute, brandishing air tickets with seat numbers.
Ghana Air¬ways also had the singular privi¬lege of being the international carrier to make air travel popular with ghosts. It was alleged that about 35 per cent of seats on Ghana Airways flights were always occupied by ghosts. How else do we explain the fact that flights were always over¬booked and yet the carrier kept posting losses all the way to bankruptcy?
Here comes chapter two of the tale: After Ghana Airways collapsed like a pack of cards, it took a long while for Ghana to fly a new national carri¬er, Ghana Interna¬tional Airlines. The new airline took to the skies in defiance of the unrelenting jinx of inde¬terminate origin, which has dogged public invest¬ment in the transport sec¬tor for as long as anyone can remember.
This jinx has persistently thrown a monkey wrench in every single investment suc¬cessive governments have made in road, marine, rail and air transport, since the country’s political indepen-dence to date: The Black Star Line, the Ghana Railways Corporation, the Omnibus Services Authority, the City Express Service, the State Transport Corporation, the Metro Mass Transport and Ghana Airways Corporation. How come they went under, one and all like that?
I doubt if all that stopped passengers and crew on the inaugural flight out of the Kotoka International from popping cham¬pagne at 5000 meters and offering up a toast to the blue and white clouds in poetic celebration of a whole new experience in air travel from and to Ghana.
Ghana’s new national airline had offices on six stories of a tower block in Accra. A bevy of cabin stewardesses in the new airline’s uniform made us catch our breath as they walked to a leased sleek Boeing 757 sit¬ting on the tarmac of KIA ready for the inaugural flight.
The new airline offered an incredibly low price of $398 for an Accra-London-Accra ticket, but not everyone jumped up and down in excitement at the offer. A businessman, who has travelled the globe for sever¬al decades, said the low price would probably only enable Ghana International Airline to provide decent on-flight ser¬vice but not much more.
It eventually dawned on management of Ghana’s new airline, that is takes more than plush office build¬ings on six floors of a skyscraper, cabin stewardesses with great legs and record economic fares to make the carrier sidestep the opera¬tional landmines which blew up its predecessor: GIA soon did the predicted belly-up!
In 2014, Ghana signed an agreement with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Bank for the provision of the technical services needed for the establishment of a national carrier and the engagement of a private partner with a track record in the management of airlines.
A government official told a radio station in Accra at the time that the new airline would take off for the skies by March 2015. We are in 2016 and here I am still scanning the skies for signs of our national colours sailing through the merry clouds!